Posted on January 6th, 2011 No comments
ELEVEN more people have died from flu across the UK taking the total to 50.
The Health Protection Agency said 45 people had died from swine flu since October while the other five were suffering from the strain flu type B.
Health bosses have told hospitals to postpone cardiac operations to make way for the most seriously ill flu patients.
The deaths have been mostly among children and young adults, with five cases in the under-fives and eight cases among those aged five to 14.
Another 33 cases were in people aged 15 to 64.
Tragic new mum Sarah Applin, who was rushed to hospital with swine flu, died just days after giving birth to a baby boy.
Another new mum, Sarah Bowden, died on December 18 – 11 days after giving birth to her son Harry. She was just 20.
And fit and healthy barman John Walsh, 21, who had not been suffering from any underlying health problems, lost his battle with swine flu after being admitted to hospital on Christmas Day.
The figures come as it was revealed some hospitals have been told to cancel operations to deal with seriously ill flu patients.
The NHS is preparing to expand the number of beds available for a highly specialised treatment — seen as a last resort.
Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) helps patients whose lungs or heart are not working normally and uses an artificial lung to oxygenate blood outside the body.
A spokeswoman for the National Specialised Commissioning Team said: “This very specialist, high risk, procedure is being provided by highly trained specialists at seven hospitals.
“The NHS continues to monitor the situation carefully and we are taking further steps to increase the number of beds available.
“For instance, hospitals providing respiratory ECMO have been asked to take appropriate measures, including postponing planned cardiac surgery, in order to maximise capacity for patients needing ECMO.
“Hospitals which have specialist respiratory centres are also being requested to suspend elective surgical work, that requires ICU (intensive care) support, to ensure capacity is available for the repatriation of stable patients from the national ECMO service.
“In addition new advice was issued to the NHS before Christmas to ensure there is additional capacity if all nationally designated ECMO beds are in use.”
The spokeswoman said ECMO is “only used as a matter of last resort in exceptional cases”.
The main ECMO centre is based at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester but seven UK hospitals in total are currently running ECMO beds.
As of Christmas Eve, 22 ECMO beds were in use across UK, up from five in early December.
Four more beds are now being arranged. Steps are also being taken to expand this number by cancelling planned operations at some hospitals that provide ECMO.
This will free up cardiothoracic (heart and lung) surgeons and their teams to move across to ECMO, which uses similar skills.
Other hospitals which have specialist respiratory centres and provide intensive care have also been asked to cancel planned operations.
This will ensure that those patients who are stable enough to leave ECMO can move into intensive care beds.
If all ECMO beds become full, plans are in place to expand capacity even further.